Ten days after Tonga Cable System customers lost connectivity when the Polynesian provider's 827-kilometer fiber optic submarine cable was cut in two places, satellite broadband now delivers business-critical connections as subscribers and tourists await repairs and a return to normal that will take a while to deliver.
Despite knowing the problem it faces, Tonga Cable has no estimated timeframe of repair -- partly because of the difficulties of working with underwater fiber-optic cable amd Tonga's remoteness and partly because the cable itself has shifted from its original underwater trench.
Stormy weather and lightning may be the culprits that knocked out the underwater cable deployed to support the island's approximately 100,000 residents. Others theorize a fishing boat, dragging anchor in shallow waters, may have disturbed the cable which, if true, calls the design into question. When it explored potential hazards to and from the Tonga-Fiji Submarine Cable Project, co-funder the World Bank cited Tonga's tropical weather as a prospective hazard to cable already trenched in the ocean bed.
After being separated from its broadband connection, the kingdom turned to Kacific Broadband Satellite's ku-band network as its sole source of Internet. Kacific, which provides high-speed satellite broadband services to the Pacific island's government, business and other customers, provisioned engineers to supply additional Internet and telephone capacity for priority communications, Tonga Cable Director Paula Piveni Piukala said in a statement.
"We appreciate Kacific's assistance, as Tonga currently has no other internet or mobile phone connectivity to the outside world," Piveni Piukala said. "Kacific's satellite service ensures that essential services can be maintained as we work to resolve the issue."
Tonga Cable defined essential services as rebooking tourists' plane tickets and business or government access, not checking social media or downloading movies.
The satellite service was limited and slower than Tonga residents and visitors were accustomed to and so, when a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) from cable ship Reliance found one, then two, cuts on the submarine cable, the operator and its customers were pleased to know what caused the long interruption.
On Jan. 29, the ROV discovered the first fault on the cable, which had moved 100 meters south-east from its original location. Earlier today, it found the second fault after relaunching the ROV on the night of Jan. 29, Etuini Liava'a, Tonga Cable CEO who is aboard Relliance, told local newspaper Matangi Tonga.
Scalable, with a life expectancy of about 25 years, the Fiji-Tonga Cable System benefited businesses, residents and tourists -- a primary source of income for the small country. Connectivity also allowed Tonga to interact with its regional neighbors and play a larger role in the global community. Tonga Cable was told the submarine investment was almost indestructible, reports said.
The "almost" was true, unfortunately.
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.